LOS ANGELES — Local civil rights activists are calling on Mayor Eric Garcetti to pick a woman to replace Police Chief Charlie Beck, who last week announced he would be retiring in June after eight years as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Najee Ali, executive director of Project Islamic Hope, called on Garcetti and the Los Angeles Police Commission to appoint Deputy Chief Beatrice Girmala as Beck’s replacement after he steps down June 27.
Girmala currently serves as the highest-ranking female officer in the LAPD. If hired, she would make history as the first female LAPD chief.
Ali’s letter to Garcetti was sent within hours of Beck’s announcement Jan. 19, which shocked many of the people attending a press conference to discuss crime statistics for 2017.
“One of the secrets of bull riding is knowing when to get off the bull,” Beck said. “And I think this is the right time to get off the bull and put somebody else back on it. We have the right people to make a selection from, and the right people to make the selection and those things are key and they don’t link up that often.”
Beck followed the announcement with this statement on his Twitter account.
“Serving the citizens of Los Angeles for over 40 years has been the honor of a lifetime. Leading the men and women of the LAPD — my family — has been a privilege I never thought I’d be worthy of. Today, I am announcing my retirement, effective June 27th of this year,” he said.
Beck said he would remain on the job until June 27.
Some of Beck’s biggest detractors, the members of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter, claimed victory. They have been asking Garcetti and the Police Commission to fire Beck because of an increase in police involved shootings, many of unarmed black men.
The Black Lives Matter chapter of Los Angeles said this on Twitter following the announcement.
“When we fight we win! LAPD Chief Charlie Beck just announced his resignation. We’ve been chanting ‘Fire Beck’ since 2015, showing up to police commission every week, and making demands of the mayor. We won.
“This work was done in collaboration with the families of those killed [by police] and with strong partners that include the Los Angeles Community Action Network, White People for Black Lives, Stop LAPD Spying Coalition and so many others,” the statement continued.
“The struggle is long and hard, but when we fight we win. May this victory be a way of honoring the lives of Wakiesha Wilson, Brother Africa, Jesse Romero, Keith Bursey, Ezell Ford, Brendon Glenn, Kenny Watkins, Redel Jones, Eric Rivera and all who were murdered by the LAPD. May it offer some comfort to their families. And may it energize the movement to transform public safety in this city and nation.”
Melina Abdullah, an organizer with Black Lives Matter and the head of the Pan African Department at Cal State Los Angeles, also commented on Beck’s resignation.
“Charlie Beck has led the most murderous police department in the nation,” she said.
“LAPD has killed more of its residents than any other law enforcement unit in the United States during seven of the eight years of Beck’s tenure, including each of the last three years.”
Garcetti delivered more positive remarks as he reflected on Beck’s retirement, a juxtaposition of how many people of color feel about Beck and the job that Beck since he took the position in November of 2009.
“[He] is a man who has led with his heart,” Garcetti said. “This is a man who has been forged in steel, whose family lives and breathes policing, and yet he is one of the most humanistic people I know.
“Los Angeles was in the most capable hands from the moment that Charlie Beck became chief of police. He is forged in steel, but has led the LAPD with his heart. Chief Beck embraced a steady path of reform at a tough moment for policing in America — even when there was criticism from both sides. He is one of the most honorable men to ever lead the LAPD, and he should be proud of what we’ve accomplished for the people of this city.”
Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable President Earl Ofari Hutchinson and other civil rights leaders issued a statement Jan. 20 thanking retiring Beck for his reform efforts in the department.
They called on Garcetti and the Police Commission to expand on those efforts to ensure zero tolerance toward excessive use of force, swift and meaningful discipline for officer misconduct, total eradication of racial profiling, and the thorough and timely investigation of citizen complaints of misconduct.
“The litmus test for the mayor and the Police Commission is to ensure that Beck’s replacement pledges to fully implement these department reforms and completely fulfill the reforms that prior chiefs and various commissions have mandated for the LAPD. This will be the best tribute to Beck and Los Angeles.”
Steve Soboroff, president of the Los Angeles Police Commission, thanked Beck for his 40 years of service to the LAPD.
“Under his leadership he has helped to make the LAPD the preeminent law enforcement agency in the world,” Soboroff said. “His focus on community policing has resulted in creating, maintaining and expanding the great relationships the department has with the diverse communities of Los Angeles. The many successes in programs that have been implemented under his leadership will serve as a testimony to his skill as a leader.”
Matt Johnson, vice president of the Police Commission and one of two black members of the commission, praised Beck for implementing department-wide training on de-escalation of incidents, for outfitting all officers with Tasers and body-worn cameras and for expanding community policing initiatives.
“Chief Beck has been a true partner, a good friend and I look forward to continue working with him during these final months,” Johnson added.
Soboroff said he and Johnson would work with the general manager of the Personnel Department to fulfill the recruitment process as outlined in the City Charter.
So far, Girmala has been the most prominent name mentioned as a possible successor to Beck.
She previously served as the commander of the department’s Employee Relations Group and the commanding officer of the Hollywood Division. She also serves as the department’s liaison to the LGBTQ community and led the LAPD’s domestic violence prevention and awareness programs.
Before being promoted to a command officer, she served a variety of operations, investigative and administrative assignments as a police officer, sergeant and lieutenant.